Pardon me while I deviate from the usual political topics. This weekend I was stunned by what I saw. No, it wasn't Tom Christy with his hair combed. It wasn't John Lombardi on a basketball court, and it wasn't Tim Marren at a John McCain rally.
It all started on Saturday when my wife said she was heading to Tops to do the weekly grocery shopping. At that point, I announced I would like to go. Now, our grocery bill usually hovers around $180 a week. This, combined with my propensity for sweets, brought my wife to a stunned silence. Afterall, me in the cookie aisle could make for an ugly, ugly grocery bill.
So we headed off to the store where I found my wake-up call. In a nutsell, I cannot believe how much junk food this store sells. I found myself literally at a standstill. Aisles and aisles of crap. Shelf after shelf or obesity-inducing garbage. People with little or no will power must have a very difficult time walking through Tops.
The question is, does Tops have a responsibility to adjust their inventory in order to steer their customers into a healthier life style or should they simply give their customers what they want? We've seen some of the contributors to the societal obesity problem make changes. Fast food restaurants are offering healthy choices and have changed their cooking oils to a healthier blend. Many snack makers have also changed the way they make their products to make them "healthier".
Obesity in children is at an all-time high. Many argue that this trend is due to other factors that lead kids into sedintary lifestyles, such as video games, computers, etc. Children don't go out and play anymore.
Nearly 19 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, and 61 percent of overweight young people have at least one additional risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children who are overweight also are more likely to suffer from bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and low self-esteem, and are more at risk for developing adult health problems, including heart disease and diabetes, according to the CDC.
But this isn't just an issue for kids. It's an issue for all of us. The costs associated with treating obesity-related illnesses are massive. A 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the annual cost of treating obesity-related illness at $93 billion, or 9 percent of all U.S. health costs. And taxpayers paid half the bill through the government's Medicare and Medicaid health programs.
In 1991, only 12 percent of American adults were considered obese, according to U.S. government data. By 2001, that was up to nearly 21 percent, a 75 percent increase. Other studies indicate that 65 percent of the population is overweight and 30 percent is obese.
If those numbers are right, only 35 percent of adults are at or below a healthy weight. And 15 percent of children are overweight, double the number 30 years ago.
The health and economic effects of all this fat are daunting. Average U.S. life expectancy, which has been rising for more than a century, is poised to decline as a result. The annual death toll from obesity-related illnesses – diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers – is estimated at 300,000, rivaling the 400,000 who die from smoking.
These are stunning figures. Little did I know that a simple trip to the grocery store would open my eyes to this massive problem. Fortunately, each of us can do our own part to right this ship. As for me, I'm avoiding the cookie aisle and heading out for a walk.